ORLANDO, Fla. – Floridians now know the candidates running for office in August and November, after the end of the qualifying period last week set the candidate lists for the elections.
We also now know which Central Florida lawmakers will return to Tallahassee without any opposition.
One state senator and four state representatives, all Republicans, will return to the Florida Legislature after no one filed or qualified to run against them.
Three of the lawmakers are from Brevard County, while two others represent parts of Marion County.
On the Florida Senate side, Debbie Mayfield was re-elected automatically.
The current Senate majority leader, Mayfield has represented Brevard and Indian River counties since 2016. Before that, she served in the Florida House of Representatives from 2008 to 2016.
“I’m honored to have the opportunity to serve our community and grateful for their support as I enter my final term,” Mayfield said in a statement to News 6. “I look forward to working with my colleagues and Governor DeSantis to protect Floridians’ freedoms, provide tax relief in a time of economic uncertainty, and uphold the rule of law. The free State of Florida is strong but we still have a lot of work ahead of us.”
Florida senators can only serve two four-year consecutive terms, so Mayfield’s term ending in 2026 will be her last.
However, under state law, lawmakers can be elected again after a two-year break.
This is how State Rep. Thad Altman, who was elected without opposition to another term in the Florida House of Representatives, has managed to stay in the Florida Legislature so long.
Altman was first elected to the Florida House from 2003 to 2008. He then was elected to the Florida Senate from 2008 to 2016. Then he returned to the Florida House in 2016.
Florida representatives are elected to two-year terms, with a term limit of four consecutive two-year terms.
State Rep. Tyler Sirois will get another two-year term, his third, in office. Sirois, a Brevard County native who represents the northern part of the county, was automatically re-elected without opposition. Sirois was first elected to the Florida House in 2018.
This is the first election where Mayfield, Altman and Sirois have faced no opposition.
Harding, who was first elected to the Florida House in 2020, represents parts of Marion and Levy counties.
He made a name for himself in 2022 as the main sponsor of the Parental Rights in Education bill, known by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which Gov. DeSantis signed into law.
State Rep. Stan McClain, who represents part of Marion County, will start his fourth term in the Florida House. He was first elected in 2016.
This is the first time either Harding or McClain were elected without opposition.
These are not the only Republicans in the Florida Legislature who were elected without opposition.
Overall 12 Republican Florida senators and 33 Florida representatives will either automatically return to Tallahassee next year, or will face no Democratic Party opposition in elections.
Democrats also have some reelected lawmakers, but not nearly as many, and others are facing universal primaries.
News 6 political analyst Jim Clark predicted another down election year for Democrats, with little to inspire candidates to run for office, particularly in solidly Republican areas.
“I think the party organization has failed,” Clark said. “The organization of the party is a mess and they have some decent candidates, but the Republicans have just raised huge amounts of money. So I think Democrats feel this isn’t their year, maybe two years from now it will be different, but who wants to run knowing they will lose?”
State Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, said it’s difficult to field candidates in solidly conservative areas without resources, pointing to the large war chest the state Republican Party has to help candidates.
“Even the most amazing candidates can only do so much without resources,” Eskamani said. “And if you’re first-time candidate running for office, you’re compounding that with very conservative areas. If you’re doing the risk assessment, it’s very difficult to perform in that environment.”
Eskamani also said the state party is playing catch-up in building a longer pipeline of Democratic candidates and inspiring people to run.
“There definitely needs to be more just public awareness on local government,” Eskamani said. “I think most people know what Congress is, but a lot of people don’t know about local government or that they can even run for State House. These seats are lacking strong candidates and strong representation.”
Calls to the Republican Party of Florida were not returned.